Liberty Township History, from the Archives from the Library of the Heritage Center

"Pupils of School District No. 124 Write Liberty Township History,"

From Newspaper Clipping, Circa 1953, Webster, SD.

Submitted to paper by Miss Beverly Fishbeck and pupils, Dist. 124

Liberty township, located in the northern part of Day County, is an area of rolling land and several sloughs. Settlers came in the early 1880s. Among the first settlers were Jens and John Bakke. They were followed by Nils Dahl, Martin Johnson, Thron Melbestad, Evan Kleven, Ole Kjorn, Ole Wolden and Louis Amundson.

Filled with a Christian spirit, they held the first church meeting at Jacob Snickerstugens, Martin Johnsons and Nils Dahls. Traveling ministers held meetings about once each month.l In 1886 it was decided to build a church where the present site now stands. It was named "Fron" because that was the home of the settlers in Norway. On July 6, 1886, the congregation was organized with a membership of 30. The church was first used on Sept. 29, 1990. It was destroyed by fire on March 8, 1942, and was replaced by a new edifice, which is now in use. Among the pastors serving the congregation were Rev. C. M. Nortvedt (1886-1889), Rev. J. Granskau (1889-1896), Rev. L.E. Hammer (1896-1922), Rev. Steffenson (1922-1926), Rev. Dale (1927-1933), Rev. Berg (1933-1940), Rev. Simondson (1940-1952), and the present pastor Rev. E.L. Holm.

The first school was held in a sod house at the Anton Knutson farm with Anton Knutson as teacher. The first parochial school was held in the granary of Knute Strand's farm for a month. Later a school house was built about one-half mile east from where the present site of Liberty School 124 now stands.

Several Indians lived in this territory and often asked the settlers for something to eat. A doctor used to live at Ft. Sisseton and pioneers dreaded to go there because they were afraid of Indians.

All settlers lived in sod houses. Wood for building was hauled by ox team from Webster. They would stay at Webster overnight because it would be too hard to make the trip in one day.

Mail was obtained from the Roslyn postoffice operated by Mr. Russell. Tom Farmen the mail carrier would leave the mail at the Nils Dahl farm, (now owned by the Carl Strand family), for the residents of Liberty Township. Fred Russell was the first to introduce lightning rods into his community.

When going away [from home], several settlers grouped together for protection and aid as well. Terrific snowstorms often endangered the lives of both people and cattle. At one instance, Peder Hanson buried himself in a snowdrift by a slough while his mother stayed in the barn--so bad was the storm. These storms usually lasted two or three days and were of terrific intensity. They were described as sudden and as a "blinding wall" that no one could find his way through. At another instance Louis Amendson took his five cattle 1 1/2 miles to water them. When he had watered three of them, a snow storm struck so he left the two that he hadn't watered to perish in the storm (he thought), and followed the other three home. When the storm subsided the two cattle were standing by the sod house.

The first store was at the Ole Hanse farm which was located in present section 13 of Liberty Township. There the price of eggs was five (5) cents a dozen and the price of butter was eight (8) cents a pound.

Many timber wolves inhabited the numerous groves of trees. They, too, were very fierce. Currants, plums and gooseberries grew wild and were used by the pioneers for food.

Land was acquired by Homestead, Preemption and tree claim acts. Often farms were sold on "wheat" contracts, that is, all the wheat raised was to be paid as a payment on the land.

The two oldest living settlers in the township are Mrs. Anne Hanson who resides on her homestead and Mrs. Carrie Opsahl, who resides on her homestead.

At present, much land is leased for oil rights in the township. It is the hope that in the future the land will also yield this resource.

A telegraph line followed the Old Fort Road but was removed when soldiers left the fort. Typhoid in the water was one of the main factors contributing to the dismissal of soldiers there. Often a sign constructed by a well in this region would read, "Do not drink--typhoid in water."

Harry J. Halberslaben and August Blank "squatted" on land when they came to work on constructing the telegraph line as a military project. As of then, land was not yet subject to homesteading. When Nils Dahl made ski trips to this territory from Starbuck, Minnesota, he came via Watertown and found out that "homesteading was o n the market". Then he brought many settlers with him to this township.

Two telephone stations were located on Section 35, one where Faro, (an assistant to Rev. Hammer) lived, and, and the other at the Hanse store. A trading post was also established in the southwest corner of Section 26, where settlers traded with friendly Indians. Darling did much "oxen trucking" for the settlers, especially bricks, as the sup-ply of wood was not plentiful. The Ft. Sisseton trail extended in a zig-zag line a short distance east of the center of the township. Traces of the trail can still be seen in Section 27. From here it ran southward to Webster.

Several prairie fires raged and at one instance a settler "spit" blood for three weeks after, due to over-exertion. Fortunately, no lives were lost in prairie fires here.

The pioneers were very grateful to Dr. Peabody for his "sick calls" that he made with a "cutter". At several instances, he'd stop at the K.E. Strand farm to rest himself, his horses and his driver.

The largest family was born to Mr. and Mrs. John G. Johnson, who had 14 children. At present 11 are living. Edwin, the eldest child, is the only one residing in Liberty Township.

The first burial in Fron was that of the first wife of Amund Ronshaugen.

Only a few of the pioneer hardships are here mentioned but it leaves with the rest of us the indication that the highest of esteem is to be paid to these settlers for what they have so faithfully done to prepare for future generations.--Submitted by Miss Beverly Fishbeck and pupils, Dist. 124

Having attended three years at Augustana College in Sioux Falls back in the early 1960s, I visited this very area with several college friends, for on one occasion we were transporting one of them back to his job, for he was contracted and hired to teach the one-room schoolhouse children, possibly in the Liberty Township. We had had our fun on a time out on the town in Sioux Falls with him, but he was anxious to return, and we drove him back and he returned late in the morning, and the next day at school the students, he said to us later, noticed how sleepy he was all during the day. That is the folly of young people who are not following the Lord! They think that they can play or party all night and still function the next morning at the job--right? I do not recall the little town that had the school, but the local people, mostly all farmers with some townspeople too, were anxious to keep their one room schoolhouse going, so that their children would not have to bussed many miles away to a large town to go to school. To keep the young 2-year college-educated teacher from Augustana College interested, the banker offered him any loan he wanted. I recall the area as rolling hills, some woods, and a wild, wind-swept look to it--sort of what you might imagine as the scenes in the novel, WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Indians, though I did not see any, would be quite at home there, along with timber wolves. It was stark land, but beautiful in a way. This area I remember tallies quite closely to what the pupils of Dist. 124 in Miss Fishbeck's class describe.--Ed.

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